Family Law Case Review 4/6/11

Case: Kimberly Devlin v. Daniel Peyton

Case Summary by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham McHale LLP

HELD: Dissolution court did not have proper jurisdiction to issue conclusions regarding adoption petition filed in different jurisdiction when the adoption court denied a motion to transfer to the dissolution court.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY: Father and Mother, who had two children, were divorced in Marion Superior Court (“Dissolution Court”) in 2004.  Mother was awarded sole physical and legal custody of the Children.  Father had consistently fulfilled his child support obligation, other than for a short period.  Father last saw the Children in 2004, when he moved to D.C. for work.  Mother remarried in 2007 and new husband filed a petition to adopt the Children in Hendricks Superior Court (“Adoption Court”) in 2009.

The Adoption Court issued a decree granting the adoption to new husband.  Mother then moved in the Dissolution Court to terminate the child support order against Father, which the Dissolution Court granted.  Father then moved to vacate the adoption in the Adoption Court and filed an objection to the termination of support and a motion to establish parenting time in the Dissolution Court.  New father agreed to vacate the adoption decree due to lack of proper service and the Adoption Court set a contested hearing on the matter.

Father moved the Adoption Court to transfer and consolidate the adoption matter in the Dissolution Court.  The Adoption Court stayed the matter pending receipt of an order from the Dissolution Court.  The Dissolution Court held a hearing and concluded sua sponte that it had jurisdiction over the adoption and Mother failed to present sufficient evidence to demonstrate that Father’s consent was not necessary.  The Dissolution Court also concluded that Father should have parenting time. Mother appealed the Dissolution Court’s adoption ruling.

The Court of Appeals determined that because the adoption was still pending in the Adoption Court, the Dissolution Court did not have jurisdiction over that issue.  Because the Adoption Court denied Father’s motion to transfer to the Dissolution Court, the adoption action remained in the Adoption Court.  Father’s only recourse would be an interlocutory appeal.

Expressing no opinion on the merits, the Court vacated the Dissolution Court’s conclusions regarding the adoption petition, and affirmed that court’s conclusions on the issue of parenting time, noting that Mother failed to challenge that issue.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: Kimberly Devlin v. Daniel Peyton

Leave a Reply